Oil Finish for Wood: Pros and Cons

Seeds and linseed oil
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
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Oil finishes can be great for certain wood applications. In some instances, however, oil finishes aren’t the best product for the job and substances such as lacquers or shellacs should be used. To determine if an oil finish is right for the project at hand consider the following pros and cons.

Works Well on Dense Woods

Nonporous woods with dense grains, like maple, cherry, and birch, can be shined to a glass-like finish with very little effort by using oil finishes.

Hard to Use on Porous Woods

applying oil to a wood surface

Woods that have open pores like oak and mahogany will require a tedious series of sanding and sealing jobs to get to a gloss finish. In some cases, a light filler might need to be used to even out the grain enough to give the finish glass-like properties.

Pro – Easy Application

Oil finishes, such as linseed and Danish oil, dry rapidly and are very easy to apply. Mistakes made while using these oils can be easily fixed on the spot or days later, making them a great choice for first-time finishers.

Con – Less Tough

Oil finishes are generally considered less protective and easier to dent and scratch than harder finishes such as shellacs. While some oils have some water-resistant qualities, generally oil finishes (especially linseed oil) are usually poor at keeping water out of wood.

Pro – Produces Better Luster

applying oil to a wood surface

Because oil finishes usually raise the grain of a wood a bit after they are applied, the luster an oil finish gives a wood is often considered more pleasing to the eye than that produced by other common finishes.

Con – Can Change Wood Color

Linseed oil and a few other oil finishes will tend to yellow or discolor some blonde woods.